Well, after going over it more over this week, definitely dropping my previous idea, for good or bad. I still definitely want to do something with lights though, but this time I am taking inspiration from the “Nemo Observatorium” by Lawerence Malstaf.
I like the idea of a chamber that creates a different atmosphere that allows you to meditate in a new way. As I mentioned though, I want to do this with lights, but I will also bring in sound as well. However, in order to make this unique and give it that wow factor. So the idea would be that I would use a mind wave scanner to read information from the user and then interpret the data into something that can then be used to create a light and sound environment. Really excited about this idea, but need to see how practical it actually is, still keeping the other one on the back burner.
Phwew. Only one more show left, but this one is gonna be a doozy.
It is really exciting to be working towards the final show and to have a little bit more time to spend on it, but it is also fairly intimidating. However, can’t think about that right now because there is a show that needs to be planned for and an idea to discover.
So, this week is mostly about spitballing any ideas we have for doing the final performance. Right now I am working off of a concept that is largely inspired by the feel of the performance “Sleep No More.”
“Sleep No More” is a hyper-immersive adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. What makes it so significant is that it is a production that the viewer gets to physically walk around and experience. It takes place over three floors of hotel, with different pieces happening on every floor and in every room. It is up to the audience to decide what they watch, and they will never get the full story, but depending where you go and what you see, every piece is interesting and individual. The part about it that interests me is the aspect of wearing masks to create a feeling of anonymity as well as the audience actually being able to walk in and around the actors.
My idea is to center around the concept of the everyday ritual and to have a scene where my actors complete the same task over and over for the duration of the performance. However, there will not be the classic staging area for an audience, but rather they will be able to walk around and through the actors themselves. The actions being performed will be normal everyday actions such as cooking, working on a computer at a desk, going to sleep, and driving in a car. I would have four actors that would each go through the four acts in a circle. I would also use lighting to create an atmosphere of surrealism, and the actors would be wearing masks to draw the focus away from the individual actors and let them represent the everyday person.
Alright, it is time to be inspired by the actions and the history of Gutai. Hailed by some as the real heirs to Pollock’s legacy, these artists focus on the idea of the act itself, and not necessarily on the end product. This lead to them doing many projects that were event oriented such as running through pieces of paper or throwing themselves into pits of clay naked in order to use the whole body to create art.
From this point of inspiration, we were to create a piece that deconstructs an action in a critical way. For mine, I decided to focus on hammering. At first, I was thinking about trying to add in the symbolism of childhood to speak to its significance to me when I was young. However, I quickly abandoned that idea and instead began investigating looking at hammering as a destructive act of creation. The decision to go that direction was really inspired by the work of Chris Burden’s piece “SAMSON”. For this I would use nails to hammer through plates filled with paint, and then let the paint seep through the cracks to the canvas below. After some consideration, this idea was also abandoned.
The last idea that I struck upon, and really stuck to, was to then engage in looking at a specific part of the actual act of hammering: rhythm. Hammering is inherently very rhythmic in its repetitive nature and sharp sound. In order to emphasize this, I decided to do a show where I would be hammering to the beat of music while also having the hammer miked, both with a contact mike and a handheld mike. However, I also wanted to make it somewhat narrative, so there is also an element of seeing how a worker who is stuck hammering all day sort of goes threw different mindsets as the day progresses and they grow more tired at times or more determined at others. This was reflected in the type of music I played, and also the physicality of the hammering individual.
This last week, the emphasis was on an interview or an interaction between, as Dan puts it, a “meatbag” and a virtual entity. However, this entity was no random digital being, but rather a simulacra that represented something. This could take any form, whether it be people who were filmed, real time face tracker, or text conversation.
For my project I wanted to center on the idea of poking fun at hipsters, especially with regards to their use of social media and the internet. If you spend time with enough of these people, you will find that there is a shared idea about the evils of social media, and many of them will abstain from using them for a time. However, there is a also a contradictory movement towards self promotion and publication that require them to take to the internet and various social media platforms in order to get their message out. This leads to an interesting irony within certain circles. (An example of this, although not from a hipster per se, would be those poets who do the poems about the evils of technology, and post it on youtube or facebook)
The performance itself, went well. I used Unity to build a very basic game that was essentially a puppet. This puppet was a beard and a pair of glasses made from green binary text that would open its mouth when the space bar was pressed. Then I used zencastr to make it so that I could hold the interview from another room, and finally, I got one of my classmates to ask the interview questions. My idea was to try to build a persona in the beginning half that was very based in the physical world, and to publicly denounce social media such as Facebook. Then, as the interview went on, I wanted to create that contradiction by emphasizing my involvement in media sites such as Youtube and Instagram.
As I said, the performance itself went well, but from the feedback it seems like some of the meaning I had been hoping to portray did not quite carry across. From what I understood though, it was an engaging enough performance and I still had some success with satirizing the hipster stereotype. I will take what I can get.
Incredibly, one way or another, I pulled it off.
I honestly wasn’t sure I could pull everything together in time, but thanks especially to my two wonderful and flexible actors, Niles Koenigsberg and Lena Andrews, I got everything done over the week. I had to go diving through thrift stores for some of the supplies as well as a quick stop off at the army surplus to get the gas masks, and then I went into full on costume creation mode. I tore things apart, I taped them back together, and I drew intricate patterns on them in sharpie. I also recorded scenes with my two person cast, using two shotgun mikes in order to try to get the hard pan to left and right. Not only were they brilliant in bringing up anything they thought I should add, but they were incredibly patient with my exhausting directions pertaining to blocking, costuming, and tonality. Possibly the most mentally draining part for me was then taking those recordings and mixing together the best takes. It required hours of hearing the same tracks filled with “Dada”‘s over and over again. A veritable sonic hell. Once that was spliced together, it came down to tweaking it and overlaying different effects in order to find the right sound. From there, all that was left was getting my lighting setup as best as I could, providing my actors with as much rehearsal time as I could, and then stepping back and letting the magic happen.
And I have to say, magic did happen. From the moment they stepped out on stage, the lights glinting off their glass eyes, they created a world simultaneously familiar and alien. I hope that my audience felt half of what I experienced when I was able to step back and forget the process, and just bask in the result. From the few audience members I talked to, and from the feedback I received from my peers, it seems like people liked it well enough, and if nothing else, my message carried across. At some point, that is the only thing that matters.
Here’s to looking forward to project numero 3.
Alright, time to launch into the world of Dada and Dali. Take the average, take the normal, and make people reevaluate it by changing some aspect.
A piece of life that we always take for granted and take as normal but is really quite odd when you think about it is kissing. That the fact of pressing our mouths together and exchanging saliva somehow portrays affection. So I propose I break that barrier down by trying to create a circumstance where I take it to the point that it becomes weird again but still maintain the aspect of it being “kissing”.
To do this I would have two actors that act out a short scene wherein they get into a fight, but then come back around and resolve the issue. This ends in them kissing passionately, however, the twist is, they will not be talking with their mouths. Instead the will talk using handheld speakers, and so when it comes to kissing, rather than using their mouths they will also use the speakers. We also will not be able to see the faces which are veiled, but have wires leading up into them, indicative of a hidden mike, although the lines will probably be prerecorded. Again I am trying to highlight the absurdity of using the part of your body you use to talk in this primal act of attraction.
Long live love.
Well, there is good news, and there is bad news.
The good news is the happenings happened, and they were a great time. We painted people, we painted pictures, searched for colored candies, and made a disturbance on a street corner, all in all a resounding success. The people who came seemed to be really engaged, and they all left talking excitedly about what they had seen that night.
The bad news: I was severely underprepared. I thought I would have enough time, and I was wrong. My idea ended up being about having badges as less direct representations of the numbers we use to evaluate people online, and hopefully it would also inspire people to talk to each other more, and once I got it set up, there were some people who engaged with it, but it was just set up too late.
So, this week I am determined to be ready far in advance and redeem myself, because this class is interesting, and I know that if I can force myself to approach it in a different way it could be something that I remember and talk about for the rest of my life. Irregardless there is one project under the belt.
My first challenge: creating a happening.
The thing about happenings that first caught my attention is how they are so integrally related to the audience becoming themselves the artist and breaking the boundaries between life and art. From there it was a quick step and a hop to another boundary that could be broken down: our virtual identity and our physical identity. In a way, they are the same boundary. Our virtual identity is a specific image that is crafted by the maker to portray something to an audience same as a piece of art is composed to do the same. People have examined something similar before, looking at behavior online exhibited in the physical world, but what about status and prestige. So then the question becomes, how do you bring these aspects of technology and social media into a performance area.
I haven’t completely worked through the logistics of this approach, but I would like to get people to reevaluate how they assign status to people online. The thing about technology is that it is completely number based. Everything is assigned a value, including how popular you are. That number of followers, or subscribers, or friends, that is a number that quantifies your social value. So, what happens if we take this virtual evaluation, this number, and make it something that we also publicly declare as part of our physical identity as well. To do this, participants would be given placards to hang from their neck with the ability to chain, and each of these would have a number on them, whether it be followers, subscribers, friends, etc. Then they are released into the room to mill about, and then the question is to see how those numbers on their chests affect the conversations and meetings that happen. There is also an idea about how reputation online is represented through user ratings, and this could be represented physically by another placard on the back where others can rate how good of a conversation they had to give feedback for people considering engaging in conversation.
There’s an old saying that you will sometimes hear when people are trying to encourage you to not give up after something goes wrong, “Just gotta get back on that horse.” Well, these next few months and these projects they entail are gonna be a big ol’ horse with a long trail, and I know I am gonna fall off and need to get back on, but in order to fall off, you gotta mount it to start with. So consider this blog my first few minutes in the saddle. Giddy up pardner.